The relationship between physical fitness and cognitive performance in old age is examined in the light of contemporary capacity theories of attention. It is suggested that a model of cognition based upon the notion of a declining attentional capacity with advancing age provides a valuable conceptual framework for examining the influence of physical fitness on cognitive performance in old age. A direct prediction of the model is that cognitive tasks which require effortful processing should be more sensitive to the effects of fitness than tasks which can be performed without or with minimal attention. It is suggested that future research in the area of exercise and cognition systematically manipulate the attentional requirements of the tasks selected for the evaluation of cognitive performance. The implications of such a task-dependent association between physical fitness and cognitive performance for future research are discussed.
(C)1991The American College of Sports Medicine